Many locals going the distance to see total eclipse
FARGO —— Tyler Kolness and his crew of kiwis, natives of New Zealand, are embarking from here on an epic road trip as they take a revamped school bus dubbed Silver out west to see the Great American Total Solar Eclipse, and they're not alone.
The rare celestial event Monday, Aug. 21, will cause gridlock on highways across the country. As many as 7.4 million people will journey to the path of totality, which stretches 2,800 miles diagonally from Oregon to South Carolina, according to Business Insider.
Despite congestion, Kolness and others from here are joining what's expected to be one of the most traveled natural events in U.S. history.
"It's not about the destination, it's about the journey," said 27-year-old Kolness, a 2012 Concordia College graduate and former Cobber football player from Hendrum, Minn.
The bus — full of bikes, skateboards, frolf discs and fidget spinners — was a dream of his friend Cory Nordick, 26, of Tauranga, New Zealand, who purchased Silver last summer for $1,900 from a church in Minneapolis. Nordick searched online to find a "sick deal," and found Silver not too far from his father's hometown of Rothsay, Minn.
The guys met at Concordia in 2011 when Nordick was visiting family in the area. Since then, they've been adventuring in New Zealand, Hawaii and now the United States.
About $4,000 has been invested in Silver as Nordick put his mechanic skills to use and ripped out some bus seats to install a stove, sink and series of bunk beds. He's paying for expenses by taking odd jobs digging trenches and hauling sugar beets.
The guys don't really have a plan except to meet as many people and party as much as possible along the way to Oregon after seeing the eclipse in Casper, Wyo.
Others from the F-M area are also ready to revel in the once-in-a-generation eclipse.
"It's going to be a giant national party — really special. For one day it won't be about politics," said Fargo reference librarian Steve Hubbard, who is venturing to Nebraska with friend and Clay County archivist Mark Peihl for Monday's big event.
The effects of the eclipse bring a "powerful, emotional experience" to observers, Hubbard said, so he is hoping for clear skies, "but I'm not sure if I'll have a primitive reaction to it."
He witnessed the last total eclipse in the U.S. back in 1979. He was 29 years old and "pretty pumped" to see the eclipse in about 99 percent totality from Moorhead.
"There's a huge difference between just a little short of it and being total," he said. "There was a peculiarity to the light; it just didn't have any real drama to it."
But this time, totality where he's going will ensure a dramatic effect, as long as skies stay clear.
Some people will drive as far as 500 miles for the eclipse and go the extra mile for favorable weather conditions, he said.
Another group of 32 people from here will join a Great Rides Fargo tour bus with bikes in tow to pedal their way to see the eclipse in Missouri on a family-owned orchard. Plans are to first attend a Kansas City Royals baseball game, winery, and historic train depots.
"We've got riders of all ages joining us for this likely once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness a total solar eclipse," said operations director Alyssa Johnson.
Hubbard said there will be another solar eclipse seven years from now, but the best spots to catch it will be from Texas up to New York, so people from here would have to drive a lot farther than Nebraska or Wyoming to witness it in totality.
But, who knows, Hubbard could venture to see three eclipses in his lifetime.
"I told myself if I ever had a reasonable chance to see one again, I wouldn't pass it up," he said.